Pines Coffee and Tea in Vancouver is unlike any coffee shop you’ve been to before. Their drinks are made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients that rely on natural flavors instead of artificial syrups, gums and gels. “Quality ingredients create extraordinary beverages,” explained Ryan Thompson, founder of Pines Coffee. “Everything that goes into our drinks is free from gluten, artificial ingredients and unhealthy fillers. There are no artificial preservatives, fake ingredients, carrageenan, burnt beans, or sugary concoctions. We use a third of the sweetness most other places use, and you can choose a house-made vegan nut milk option for no additional charge.”
Ryan toiled under the corporate coffee umbrella for several years. After a medical diagnosis caused him to investigate the correlation between what he ate and how he felt, Ryan learned the unfortunate side effects of consuming too much sugar (in all its forms) and commonly-used preservatives known to cause migraines and bowel issues.
In 2014, Ryan decided to open a coffee business serving drinks with adventurous flavors made from clean, natural ingredients. He cashed in all his savings and opened the first Pines location in a vintage FotoMat booth in the heart of Vancouver. The space was small, but the mission was big: make great-tasting beverages free of chemicals, additives or preservatives.
The first drink to catch on was the black alder mocha, a dark chocolate and orange espresso drink that’s reminiscent of the chocolate holiday treat. When Ryan couldn’t find orange flavoring made from actual oranges instead of chemicals, he made his own. The pure, cold-pressed orange oil that goes into the black alder mocha has a wonderful flavor with no added sugar.
Pines: The Name is Also a Mind Set
“I grew up with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on my back porch, so an outdoorsy-themed shop was a must,” Ryan said. But the name evokes more than picturesque stands of trees. “Pine trees are among the heartiest trees in the world. They can survive extreme heat, frigid cold and drought. A tree that survives where others can’t seemed like a fitting name for a business setting out to disrupt the super-competitive coffee industry.”
Pines also lives up to its name with drink offerings like the seasonal blue spruce latte made with ginger and blue spruce needles. The menu also includes beverages any coffee drinker will recognize such as lattes, mochas and cold brew.
By 2016, it was time for a change. “The drive-thru didn’t allow our customers to experience Pines in all its glory,” Ryan said.
So in early 2017, Pines moved from Mill Plain and Grand to The Mill (also known as Garrison Square by longtime Clark County residents). The new retail location offered the opportunity for Pines to expand its food and drink offerings and start a new chapter.
Something For Every Beverage Drinker
Pines Coffee offers something for just about everyone:
- Lifestyle dieters (vegans, paleo, whole30)
- Those with allergies (peanut free, gluten free, dairy free).
- Coffee “snobs” looking for single origin pours and cortados
- People accustomed to corporate coffee chain drinks that love decadent mochas, dark roasts and breakfast sandwiches.
“Our goal is to meet each coffee drinker wherever they’re at and offer them a quality coffee beverage made with natural ingredients,” Ryan said. “Probably the only customer we don’t appeal to is the super-sweet blended energy-drink-loving consumers.”
For first-time visitors, Ryan recommended anything with caramel. “It pairs really well with our espresso roast and it’s a great way to get a taste of what we offer without getting too far out of your comfort zone,” he explained.
The best-selling drinks at Pines are the base camp, a vanilla & coconut caramel latte, and the Fort Vancouver, a coconut caramel & dark chocolate mocha. Non-coffee drinkers can enjoy fragrant, spiced chai or a perfectly-balanced green matcha gently sweetened with blackberries.
Their seasonal drinks are also not-to-be-missed.“Developing new seasonal drinks is one of my favorite things to do,” said Ryan. “Our goal is to have a group of rotating drinks around a theme each month that tests the limits of our creativity.”
Ryan uses customer feedback and food trends to develop their seasonal menu. “If I see an ingredient pairing that strikes my attention, I start playing around with it in a syrup combo,” he added.
So Good, You Might Not Know its Gluten Free
Pines is a dedicated gluten free facility, but that doesn’t mean they compromise on quality. “There can be a huge difference between someone’s perception of gluten free and what we carry,” Ryan explained. “Most customers aren’t used to having fresh bakery items at their coffee shop that taste good and are allergy-friendly at the same time. I honestly would recommend the cinnamon roll or one of our egg bagel breakfast sandwiches to anyone.”
Pines also hosts popular waffle pop-ups. The vegan and gluten-free breakfast treats can be ordered plain or with toppings. Pines regulars will be glad to know the baker behind the waffle pop-ups and Ryan are planning to open a second cafe in 2019.
Pines is located at 8086 E Mill Plain Blvd in Vancouver and open daily. Visit the Pines Coffee and Tea website for more information. You can also connect with them on the Pines Facebook and Instagram.